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Adrienne Adams

Speaker Adams Still Won’t Come Out in Support of Sammy’s Law

12:01 AM EDT on April 12, 2023

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. Photo: Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was tepid in offering support on Tuesday for Sammy’s Law — a state bill that would allow New York City to set its own speed limits — even as her restive rank and file was mounting a second effort to garner support for the measure amid the highest cyclist death toll in any year since the city started keeping record.

Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez (D-Williamsburg) introduced a resolution on Tuesday calling on the state legislature to pass Sammy’s Law — a resolution that is a first step in securing the required “home rule” message to be sent to Albany legislators.

Gutierrez called her resolution, co-sponsored by Council members Shahana Hanif (D-Park Slope), and Lincoln Restler (D-Williamsburg), a "signal that this Council is serious about mak[ing] our streets safer."

Yet Adams, whose signature was also notably absent from a letter sent to Albany lawmakers last month asking them to pass Sammy’s Law as part of the ongoing state budget negotiations, offered only a lukewarm response when asked if she supports the resolution in favor of the life-saving bill, saying she has other priorities.

“I know that many of my colleagues have expressed support of Sammy's Law and I do respect their advocacy for it,” Adams said at a Tuesday presser. “Traffic violence and addressing it should absolutely be a priority for us, and my advocacy around the state budget has focused on protecting New York City’s budget from additional costs being shifted in other places. We're going to let the state do what the state does in response to Sammy's Law. We have prioritized in our budget priorities, our focus for right now, which has to do with housing, which has to do with closing Rikers and other things.”

Adams’s comments come one day after a hit-and-run driver fatally slammed into 16-year-old Jaydan McLaurin with such apparent force that the impact severed his electric Citi Bike in half. McLaurin was the 11th cyclist to die on city streets so far this year — the highest ever at this point in a year.

It’s imperative that the city have the ability to set and lower its own speed limits, advocates say.

“We need to focus on all the tools possible to keep New Yorkers safe on our streets,” said Elizabeth Adams, senior director of advocacy and organizing at Transportation Alternatives.

The bill is named after Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn in 2013. Gov. Hochul included a version in her executive budget, and the state Senate followed with its one-house proposal, but the Assembly did not. Last year, the City Council failed to garner enough support to pass a “home rule” message. And in 2021, the Senate passed Sammy’s Law, but it failed in the Assembly. The law would not automatically reduce the city’s speed limit, it would just give the city the authorization to do so.

Last month, a majority of council members — minus Adams and Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, the Queens Democrat who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee — signed onto the missive sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Assembly Member William Magnarelli (D-Syracuse), who chairs the Transportation Committee.

A week later, Brooks-Powers expressed her own conditioned support of Sammy’s Law, demanding that the city and state redesign streets for safety in low-income communities of color.

“Whenever the city can claim more authority over our own streets, we should seize it, which is why I support Sammy's Law," she said. "Lowering speed limits works best when paired with traffic calming and street safety infrastructure, and I urge the state to prioritize these investments as budget negotiations continue into the coming weeks. A record number of children were killed in traffic last year, many in long-neglected outer boroughs and communities of color. We urgently need proven, life-saving, infrastructure and traffic-calming interventions to create safer streets here for all New Yorkers.”

She defended her decision not to sign onto the letter.

“There’s no real reason or not in terms of being on the statement, and in terms of Sammy's Law and where things are, I think the statement speaks for itself. I think we also need to include infrastructure in the conversation when we talk about street safety, that’s a focus that I have,” said Brooks-Powers, whose family car has been caught speeding in school zones a whopping 34 times since 2020. “I wouldn’t read too much into a letter versus a statement as opposed to the fact that I did come out with a statement.”

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